DID Congress fail to do its job? Did it not hear all sides before it approved the bill and submitted it to the President for his signature? Who fouled up?
President Rodrigo Duterte stunned the business and employment sector when he vetoed Friday, July 26, 2019, the measure that would have fulfilled his 2016 campaign promise to end abusive labor practices. His decision came only a day before the Security of Tenure bill was supposed to lapse into law.
Duterte rejected on the last minute the measure known also as the “end-endo bill” that would make it illegal for companies to practice labor-only contracting. Workers refer to this as “endo” for end of contract. A worker is hired for up to five months to avoid reaching the sixth month of service when the employee is supposed to be granted permanent tenure and benefits.
Under the Constitution, a bill may become law even without the President’s signature, if the President does not sign it within 30 days from receipt in his office. The end-endo bill was sent to Malacanang for Duterte’s signature last June 27. Congress may decide to override the presidential veto by a two-thirds vote. In this case, it is unlikely Congress would override the veto as most of them toe the Duterte party line.
Duterte, in explaining his veto, said the measure was against industry. “You do not make it hard for the capitalist also to move,” he said. “The security of tenure should also provide the security of the capital. This is a democracy. It should be fair.”
Reports said a coalition of business groups, a week before Duterte’s veto, sent an appeal to the President stating that the measure was not needed because there are existing laws that protect workers from contractual arrangements.
The process of ending endo started before the 2016 elections when Duterte promised during the campaign to have the law passed. Workers applauded him for that. As President, and to push Congress, he certified the end-endo bill as urgent.
In the years after 2016, Congress must have heard the side of business and taken note of the reservations. Studies were conducted and people were consulted in the making of the bill. Business establishments, including malls, to prepare for the law’s passage, already started taking measures.
So, what went wrong? Was Congress remiss?
The Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development headed by Senator Joel Villanueva was the one that pushed for the bill to end endo in the upper chamber. The House adopted the Senate version, thus removing the requirement of a bicameral conference committee where the measure could have been ironed out further.
Duterte said he may have the bill re-filed in Congress to include those concerns for management and investors. The process of refiling the bill must determine what went wrong, what changes to make and who fouled up--the House, Senate or Malacañang.